I won’t rehash the debate about piracy of music and movies, which has been ongoing in public forums and political gatherings for over a decade. Instead I’ll describe to you what just happened to me.
I was at Target and saw a display for Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” on DVD. Having thoroughly enjoyed the movie in theaters, I decided I’d buy it. That decision immediately complicated:
1) Prometheus on DVD for $16.99.
2) Prometheus DVD/Blu-ray combo pack for $22.99
3) Prometheus 4-disc Collector’s Edition for $27.99
I don’t have a Blu-ray player, and I’m a thrift SOB, so I grabbed the DVD version. Upon closer examination I realized the DVD copy had NO special features other than an audio commentary track. Crestfallen, I looked over the combo pack. There were a few more special features, but to my dismay they were only on the Blu-ray version! Lastly, the Collector’s Edition and it’s 7+ hours of bonus content, exactly what I’d been looking for….
Unfortunately, not only is the 4-disc CE stuffed with junk like a 3D Blu-ray copy (how many people own a 3D Blu-ray TV?), there is no indication on the packaging as to what features are on which discs. After some frustrating iPhone research, it seemed I was either going to have to buy a Blu-ray player or else I was shit out of luck when it came to bonus content.
I’m going to leave morals out of the issue, because morals are easy: you get what you pay for. If I’m not going to pay for the Special Features, I have no legal or personally righteous claim to them.
But in the real world, I am a person who has been obsessed with the Alien universe for almost 20 years. I waited patiently for Fox’s proposed “Alien 5” to evolve into a Scott-directed prequel, then into a “not a prequel” prequel, and finally me and my buddies drove to the nearest IMAX theater for a midnight release because we could not wait any longer.
I ignored the script, rife with cliche and illogical character actions, and focused on the breathtaking cinematography and top-notch performances by Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, and really the entire cast. The 3D–which I don’t generally care for–was stunning.
And then a new period of waiting began, as the people at Fox compiled deleted scenes, Making-of-featurettes, etc. etc.
That wait will continue, it seems, for us non-Blu-ray owners. As of right now, the 7 hours of bonus content will cost you $30 for the movie and $80 for a player. Unless, of course, you snag the whole deal for free at the Pirate Bay. So back to the issue at hand: whether or not I can justify the piracy I will no doubt commit in the coming months to obtain this extra footage.
For me, the justification is easy. I am willing to shell out $30 for a movie I already paid $15 to see in theaters, and for the Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and Digital Copy versions that I have no use for. What I ask for, in return, is the ability to view the content I paid for on the player I already own and have no desire to “upgrade.” If my $30 doesn’t grant me access to what I want, I’ll find it elsewhere.
And technically, this is how torrents got started. Music on vinyl and video game cartridges to consoles that haven’t been made since the 60’s–torrents were designed to preserve this media digitally.
At the same time, this is exactly how Special Features were born–when people were wary about converting from VHS to DVD, the Special Features were the only concrete incentive for upgrading. It’s not a perfect parallel though, because Blu-rays have risen and fallen and risen in popularity, and they don’t seem yet poised to overthrow DVDs completely.
So there you have it. Downloading an illegal cam-rip of the new Bond flick is one thing, but what about pirating a couple deleted scenes, some interviews and early design concepts that you’ve already paid for? Is there a difference?
You tell me.